UN report finds increasing violence and need for humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan as US troops withdraw

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — The United Nations paints a grim portrait of life in Afghanistan in a new situation report, highlighting increased violence and the spread of COVID-19 as the Taliban has taken control of dozens of districts in recent weeks.

According to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ report, while the United States and NATO withdraw forces from the country, the situation on the ground continues to get worse.

“Afghanistan is entering a new and uncertain phase of its decades-long conflict,” Guterres said. “Progress in the peace talks that began in September 2020…has slowed, and fighting continues around the country. Fears of military escalation increasingly threaten the atmosphere for genuine negotiations.”

In the six months that followed those peace talks, the report found that civilian casualties “increased substantially” compared to the same time period in 2019.

Afghan women’s rights activist Mary Akrami is one of many demanding a ceasefire. She says that the agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban has brought “nothing but more violence.”

Haneef Atmar, Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister, told the U.N. Security Council that the Taliban has not honored its obligations under the deal with the U.S., which included cutting ties with terror groups, reducing violence, and working towards a permanent ceasefire.

“Our people have witnessed only the worst violence of the last two decades since the signing of the Doha agreement,” he said.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield agreed with the report, calling the levels of violence “unacceptable.” Still, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said Monday that there is no plan to reverse the decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan by September.

Beyond the violence, the U.N report also found that 18.4 million Afghans need humanitarian assistance immediately, up from 9.4 million at the start of 2020. The report points much of the blame for that increase at the spread of COVID-19 and the deep risk of a third consecutive year of drought.

Perhaps most notably, 14 million Afghans are currently at “crisis” or “emergency” levels of food insecurity. That figure includes an increase in malnutrition among children under the age of five. The report urges greater humanitarian donations, among other solutions.

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